Saint Maud is a psychological horror about a young nurse (Morfydd Clark) who, following ‘an incident’ while working for the NHS, something horrific that is alluded to in the opening scene, now finds herself working in palliative care.
Maud is a lonely, isolated, and very religious young woman, and as she sits in her sparse little bedsit, she prays to God in the hopes that he will guide her as she begins her new role. That new role sees her taking over as carer for Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), an ex-dancer whose body is now succumbing to terminal cancer. As Maud feeds, bathes and generally does everything for Amanda, her obsession with her faith and religion begins to send her into a downward spiral, becoming increasingly convinced that her personal mission from God is to save Amanda’s soul. Amanda’s lifestyle choices and love-life are often at odds with Maud’s beliefs, eventually resulting in tensions between them.
‘In my head, she’s very much this person who has felt really alienated her entire life and has always found it really difficult to connect with other people,’ explains British director Rose Glass about the lead character of her feature-length debut. Morfydd Clark fills that role brilliantly, with her calm and innocent voice narrating much of the film through her prayers, and we experience her failed attempts at connecting with others while on a rather heavy and eventful night out on the town. An ominous score also helps to set the tone, along with a rather gloomy colour palette, and there is a general feeling of dread throughout.
Aside from that, it’s fair to say that Saint Maud really didn’t work for me at all. I was fully invested in the character of Maud, how faith was shaping her, and how her relationship with Amanda was affected. But two thirds into this slow-burn character study of a young woman essentially going through a breakdown, I was bored and desperate for something to happen. Considering the runtime is only 84 minutes long, that’s not good.
A last-minute burst of chaos and horror provided a glimmer of hope but was very short-lived. And an attempt to deliver powerfully, memorable imagery only resulted in laughs from my cinema audience the likes of which I haven’t experienced since the ending of Hereditary.
Saint Maud is released in UK cinemas later this week, if your local cinema is still open!